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Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Halloween night, Roseland Ballroom New York City with Alice Cooper!

Review Submitted by Metal-Rules.com guest contributor, Tim Stradling. 

All pictures copyright Bill Crowe, 2000

"Well, well, well. What have we here? Brave new visitors? I am the controller. The only piece of technology left in the city of the dead. A lifeless, godless world, run by the sadistic megalomaniac Alice Cooper. My function is to draw you in, but there is some piece of humanity left in me. Go! Now, while you still can! While you still have a chance. If he catches me warning you he'll kill me... if I'm fortunate. What have we become? Here, on Brutal Planet."

So began the concert Halloween night at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. The living torso inside the giant raised metal box that was The Controller was wheeled offstage as the band tore into the title track from the new Alice Cooper album, (Brutal Planet) his heaviest release since 1987's Raise Your Fist And Yell. Backlit, the lone silhouette of Alice walked up the steps of the platform, facing the crowd. Dressed in red leather duster and torn fishnet future warlord chic, the master of theatrical rock raised his cane and the music ground to a halt. The cane drops, and boom, the music cranks again. "We're spinning 'round on this ball of hate..." snarls Alice, the crowd, full of negative NYC attitude, some dressed in costume, eats it up. 

The stage was a futuristic wasteland. An overturned car, rubble, and a backdrop of a city in ruins. Running through another new track, Gimmie, and slitherting into Go To Hell, a dominatrix in skin tight PVC took to the platform to start her whip dance. Making quick work of her, she was booted from the platform to the mass approval of the bloodthirsty dogs in the crowd. The tone for the first half of the show was definitely darker, with new track Blow Me A Kiss, the classic anthem of teenage angst-triumphant, I'm Eighteen, and the utterly eerie new Pick Up The Bones. Feed My Frankenstein followed, as Alice picked up some scattered body parts from around the stage and started assembling a body inside a glass fronted mechanical chamber that looked right off the set of an old mad scientist movie. 

Wicked Young Man followed, and led to the crime and punishment portion of every Alice show. A pretty blonde nurse wheels out a decrepit baby carriage. The hauntingly familiar bass line of the 1971 classic Dead Babies drones out and the crowd roars anew. One of his earliest controversial songs, it hasn't been played live in 12 years. A whole new generation of fans soaked up every minute of it as Alice stalked the stage. The baby is plucked from the carriage, and held up for the audience to see. A mutated 2 headed monstrosity, one head almost human, the other a dog face, is great! Alice mouths baby talk at it, and waves it's little hand at the crowd before impaling it on a samurai sword. Quickly restrained by utilitarian henchmen and forced into a straight jacket for the staple essay on madness, Ballad Of Dwight Fry, the nurse returns to torment him. Pulling his hair, spitting and kicking him, she turns away, as she herself mad, scribbles furiously on her clipboard. Unaware that his straps have become undone, she's choked from behind by Alice and thrown into the trunk of the car. Always up for a bit of the old ultra violence, the henchmen return wheeling out the guillotine for the punishment. With typical dramatic flair the blade falls to spell the end of our anti-hero. The executioner holds up the still bleeding head and impales it on a spike. 

The band then took some time to shine, breathing new life into the 1975 classics Devil's Food and The Black Widow in an instrumental montage. Probably the only weak point in the show was next with the dreaded drum solo. God, I hate drum solos. Though talented, Eric Singer's flaming drum stick acrobatics were approaching Tommy Lee tackiness.

A quirky tinkly piano bit finds our sexy nurse climbing out of the trunk in a bit of silent movie theatrics. Trying to regain her dignity, she adjusts her dress, and pulls Alice's head from it's stake and gives it a kiss. She walks it over to the body in the glass chamber, and fits it on to the shoulders. Urged on by the shouts and cheers, she pulls the giant switch on the side of the chamber. In cornball Saturday afternoon horror show fashion, the sounds of electrical charge blare forth, and the chamber fills with smoke. No More Mr. Nice Guy  begins, and out comes the rejuvenated Alice from the chamber, chasing our poor nursie back to her trunk. Sporting a white tuxedo, and subsequently tearing it off in quite the Vegas Velcro-seam cheekiness, thus begins the 'fun' portion of the show. The rest of the band get into the spirit, with costumes of their own. The most hilarious being guitarist Pete Freisen's schoolgirl outfit... open shirt, overstuffed bra, plaid shirt, stockings, pigtails and all.

Big rewards followed for the hard core fans with the extremely rarely done It's Hot Tonight and Caught in A Dream (not played live since 1977 and 1972 respectively). New songs and hits followed with It's The Little Things (with rant by Alice about a guy in the front row with a Marilyn Manson t-shirt on), Poison, Take It Like a Woman, Only Women Bleed, and another rare gem, You Drive Me Nervous (again, not played live since 1972).

This years touring band was introduced; Pete Freisen (formerly of The Obsessed) and Ryan Roxie (of Electric Angels, Dad's Porno  Mag, Glamnation) on guitar, Greg Smith (Doro Pesch alumni) on bass, Teddy "Zig Zag" Andreadis (Guns N Roses) on keys, and Eric Singer (Kiss, Black Sabbath) wearing a Peter Criss mask on drums. The nurse wandered out again, and was dismissed by Alice with a wave of the hand, introduced only by saying "kids." (The nurse was played by Alice's own 17 year old daughter, Calico.)

Wrapping up the set were perennial favorites Under My Wheels and School's Out. The thundering drum intro to Billion Dollar Babies kicked off the encore, and surprisingly segued into a verse and chorus of The Who's My Generation. Closing the show, Alice appeared carrying an American flag for the 1973 hit Elected, sporting a "BRITNEY WANTS ME" t-shirt, the word "DEAD" across the back, as people in presidential masks scrapped around the stage. Brutal Planet was reprised as Alice was dragged from the stage, and an Alice look-alike appeared in the earlier Warlord garb, holding up Alice's bloody head on the platform, and the stage went black to the deafening roar of the crowd.

There's just something about the energy level of the NYC crowd that bands feed off of, and this was certainly the case tonight. The last official show of the tour, the band was tight, and both they and Alice were having a great time. At 103 minutes, this tour was rivaled in length only by the 1989 tour for mega hit Trash. Looking around at the crowd afterward, Ace Frehley and psuedo personality Jesse Camp were spotted among the spent and sweaty fans. 

Nowhere more brutal than NYC, nothing more 'Halloween' than Alice, he once again showed why he is a legend, directly inspiring 3 generations of musicians from Kiss and David Bowie to King Diamond, WASP and Gwar, to Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. His songs have been covered by a diverse cross section of pop culture; Etta James, Tina Turner and Frank Sinatra to U2, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, and The Smashing Pumpkins, to Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Anthrax, Samael, Megadeth, The Sex Pistols and so many more.

"Welcome to my nightmare
I think you're gonna like it
I think you're gonna feel you belong
We sweat and laugh and scream here
'Cause life is just a dream here
You know inside you feel right at home here
Welcome to my nightmare
Welcome to my breakdown"

Welcome, indeed.